Black Excellence: Kayla, Mary & Tiara

This month’s Black Excellence piece features three of our young counselors.  For more about how our children can transition from young camper to Camp Counselor, read this month's feature article "The Arc of Identity."

Transracial Journeys Camp Counselors

Kayla Bell

Kayla Bell

Kayla Bell

Pronouns: She/They

Kayla is currently a graduate student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Kent State University. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Education from Ohio State University in 2018. She works as a building substitute at Breakthrough Middle School in Cleveland, Ohio.

Kayla’s Favorite Camp Memory:

“My favorite experience from camp was when the kids did their showcase of their many skills and talents. I felt it gave the kids the opportunity to express themselves and all that they had learned at camp.”

Mary Halm

Pronouns: She/Her

Mary is one of our new head camp counselors. She is a recent graduate of the University of Rochester where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health. Currently, she is a Public Services Fellow with the Cleveland Foundation and the Cleveland Transformation Alliance.

Mary’s Favorite Camp Memory:

“I have many great memories from camp and being part of the TRJ family. I am not sure I can pick just one. Two really significant ones stand out for me. The first is my first year coming to camp. I was maybe 14. My mom and I went together, and it was the first time I walked into a space with my mom and didn't get a weird look. No one asked the question (you know the one) because everyone looked like us. I was 14, and this was my first time being in a space where I didn't have to answer the question I dreaded the most. The second most significant memory for me was coming to camp with my sister Maggie for the first time. She makes my TRJ Camp experience complete.”

Mary Halm

Mary Halm

Tiara Sargeant

G. Tiara Sargeant

G. Tiara Sargeant

Pronouns: she/her

Tiara serves as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator for the Shaker Heights School District. She is a graduate of Hampton University with a degree in Strategic Communications and of Case Western Reserve University with a Masters Degree in Positive Organization Development.

Tiara’s Favorite Camp Memory:

“My favorite moment from camp was getting to connect with the families via meals. During our last in person camp at Bellwether, I loved getting to cook alongside the chef and share stories with other family members.”


April Beginnings: What’s in a Name?

Your name is central and significant to who you are and, in essence, can be the keystone of identity. When your child is adopted, there’s another world, another narrative, and perhaps another name that accompanies them along with their “who am I?” journey. The way in which we build a strong and healthy identity often begins with our names as one of our central building blocks.

April Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp 2021. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for April. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

April Pro-Tip for Parents: : Becoming more fully aware of the deeper elements of adoption related to names will prepare you to authentically hold the realities of identity formation experiences. Diving into these delicate topics may evoke strong emotions. Have confidence in yourself to take steps on this journey. As part of the TRJ community, you have the support, love, and guidance of this community to commit to moving toward complexities in service of a healthier, fuller experience of adoption for your child/children, your family, and for YOU!

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• How do you feel about your name? Love it? Dislike it? Have never really thought about it?
• Did you ever change your name?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• How did you choose my name?
• Do you know if I had a different name before I was adopted?
• Did you discuss my name with anyone in my family of origin?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• Does my name have cultural significance?

This post is from our April, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our Parent Meet-Up each month, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp - registration is open now!


Venus and Serena Williams – Black Excellence

During Women’s History Month we shine a light on Serena and Venus Willams.  These two strong sisters are the epitome of strength, grace, and excellence. Whether on or off the tennis court both women have continued to show and prove how dedication and commitment can turn gifts and talent into winning records, successful businesses and fulfilling personal lives.

“I love me. I’ve learned to love me. I’ve been like this my whole life and I embrace me. I love how I look. I am a full woman and I’m strong, and I’m powerful, and I’m beautiful at the same time.”
– Serena Williams taking on body shamers in a 2013 interview with ESPN.

"You have to let fear go. Another lesson is you just have to believe in yourself; you just have to. There's no way around it. No matter how things are stacked against you, you just have to every time."
- Venus Williams

Even under the harshest conditions when folks are coming at them, they stand tall, are not afraid to show their vulnerability, and to fight for what is right.  We salute Serena and Venus.  We also can’t wait to watch “King Richard” to have deeper look inside the lives of this amazing Black family.

 


Preparation: Transracial Adoption: Be Ready!

Have you had strangers ask inappropriate questions of you and your family? “Is she/he/them yours?” - “Where are they from?” - “Your child is SO lucky”. These invasive questions are part of being a family that does not match and where differences of race are obvious to the world around you. It is important to be prepared for these intrusions.

March Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp 2021. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for February. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

March Pro-Tip for Parents: Make sure you have thought about specific times when moments of intrusion or inquiry have happened to your family. Think about the conversations you have had with friends and extended family when they were reflecting on how they feel or think you and your children should feel about adoption. These are intricate and complicated realities and thinking about them and talking about them will help ease what often lives under the surface.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• Do you feel lucky to be my parent?
• Do you think I should feel lucky to be your child?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• How do you explain our family to friends and family? How about to strangers that ask about us?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some unlucky things about adoption?

This post is from our March, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our Parent Meet-Up each month, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp - registration is open now!


Simone Biles – Black Excellence

On the Transracial Journeys Facebook Page, we recently asked for Black Excellence nominations. You did not disappoint! With nominees such as Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, Resmaa Menakem and Simone Biles, it was tough to choose. However, there’s one candidate who strongly represents this month’s themes of love and history (in the making) and she is Simone Biles! Thank you for your nomination Nicole Zistler, and please keep your nominees coming.

Simone’s strength and grace is not simply about her gymnastics but it’s also present as she has had to navigate inappropriate discreditation of her family structure. Born in 1997, Simone and her three siblings spent their early childhood in foster care until her maternal grandparents adopted Simone and her younger sister, Adria. Her two older siblings were adopted by her grandfather Ron Biles’s sister, Harriet.

Inspired by Gabby Douglas at a young age, Simone has said, “Growing up, I didn’t see very many Black gymnasts…So whenever I did, I felt really inspired to go out there and want to be as good as them. I remember watching Gabby Douglas win the 2012 Olympics, and I was like, if she can do it, I can do it.”.

Simone Biles is not only the most decorated gymnast of all time with 7 Olympic medals and 25 World Medals, but she’s also known for mental health advocacy on behalf of herself and others. Under incredible pressure and under the world’s spotlight, she stepped out of the Tokyo Olympics to take care of her own mental health. She stated,

I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. That’s why I decided to step back.”

At past Transracial Journeys  Family Camps and Zoom meetings, several of our kids have excitedly voiced their love for Simone. There are many books about her available at your local library, but only one of them is written by her “Courage to soar: a body in motion, a life in balance”. Check it out!


February Intersections: Love and Black History Month

With St. Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, this short month brings so many foundational elements of transracial adoption to explore.

February Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp 2021. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for February. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

February Pro-Tip for Parents: Be extremely honest with yourselves about what may be a real lack of knowledge and experience with differences of race/class/culture prior to parenting transracially. As you think about this, also think about ways you are addressing and will continue to address this lack.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• What is one thing you love about yourself?
• What is one thing you love about me?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Who was the first person you loved?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What makes us different?
• What makes us similar?
• What are some new ways we can honor and celebrate Black Excellence, Joy, Resilience?

This post is from our February, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our Parent Meet-Up each month, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp - registration is open now!


Black Excellence – bell hooks

Buy the cover art→  Art by Monica Ahanonu for TIME

Gloria Jean Watkins aka bell hooks (September 25, 1952 – December 15, 2021)

This month, we celebrate bell hooks and her contributions to race, class, and culture in her many books, and in her work as a feminist and as a professor.

In her book “All About Love”, she wrote that we put more emphasis on love as a noun, but she asked her readers to use it more like a verb. In the same book, she referred to M. Thomas Peck’s definition of love as

“the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”.

We have a lot to learn about our relationship to love, loving ourselves and loving others.  Dr. Hooks has left us a legacy of instruction in her body of published work.


The New Year and Hard Relationships

It’s a new year, and January generally comes to us with the mindset of making New Year’s resolutions and thinking about the year ahead. These resolutions are generally about things and not about our relationships (our connectedness) with others or with ourselves.

Teaching Our Children Healthy Relationships

Our behavior and thoughts about our relationships with others can range from warm and loving to anxiety provoking or even scary. In working on our relationships, think about love as an action. Consider activating love, relationships and doing the work to extend yourself in order to nurture yourselves and your children. It’s not easy, but showing our children how to do this when they are still children, and in our care, is a healthy concept to teach.

With this in mind, and because adoption is rooted in complexity, it is important that we, as adults and parents, work on processing our relationships and our connection to difficult things, concepts, and circumstances. Doing this will not only benefit us as individuals, but our children and extended families too!

Our Relationship With the Calendar

One of the first relationships you can lean into in January is your relationship to the calendar. In your TRJ card deck, April asks you to chart out some dates and anniversaries for the year with your children. Think about your relationships to these events (both celebrations and Transracial Adoption Conversation Cardschallenges) and how you might prepare for them. Share your strategies with your children, have them share their ideas and their “asks” for support or celebration with you and then co-create your year. Don’t worry about getting the whole year planned, you can go at a pace that works for you and your family.

Read more about January conversation cues, including Pro-Tip for Parents, in this month's Calendar and Card Deck post: "January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family."

Co-Creating your Family Calendar

For families that received the TRJ June in April calendar, we intentionally left it blank with no holidays or events. Instead, we gave you a list of possibilities on one of the first pages so you can fill in exactly what you’d like as a family. If you don’t have one of our calendars and you’d like one, send us a note to info@transracialjourneys.org and we’ll get you one. You can also do a similar exercise with ANY calendar you have and read our monthly emails for your conversation stimulants. Reclaim your calendar together and use it as a center of gravity for transformation!

This post is from our January, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family

January is a time when folks traditionally take stock of where they are and may even make some resolutions for a new diet, more time exercising, or commitments to spending quality time with family. For families experiencing transracial adoption, January can offer a time to think about the year ahead and together as a family, continue the expansive journey of purposefully navigating family and differences together.

January Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp 2021. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for December. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

January Pro-Tip for Parents: Do some pre-planning so that you have time to process some of the harder anniversaries or days on the calendar before discussing with children. Have some ideas to share for new dates to mark on the calendar so your children can react and be inspired to think about what they’d like to add as well.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• Each family member thinks about a few dates they want to add to the calendar - from a whimsical day like “national doughnut day” to Birth Mother’s Day (the Sat before Mother’s Day) to the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Each
one of these days can be placed on the calendar with ample time to prepare!

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Work together to decide the best way to honor both the fun days and make room to honor and prepare for the harder ones.

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some unlucky things about adoption?

This post is from our January, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Recommendations for Giving Books this Holiday Season

 - by Avril McInally, member of the TRJ Board since 2016

On a personal note, I’d like to share a story about a book my daughter, Mary, enjoyed when she was a wee girl. When I discovered the board book “Shades of Black” by Sandra Pinkney, I bought a copy (I should have bought two so I could share one with her White best friend). Mary and I read it many times and until it became tattered and too young for her. The last line in the book read “I am black, I am unique.” Mary often read that sentence aloud. It sounded like “I am black, I am yougique.” Reading this book is a happy reminiscence for us, but it also takes me back to a time when I hardly saw any reflections of our children in books. If they did appear, they were often secondary characters.

Recommended Books

In memory of this experience, I created an annotated bibliography for our children that came in your care packages just before camp this summer. As I think about all the characters in the books I recommended, I am thankful that we have a much wider representation of families, of children and of their many different intersectionalities. It’s not so difficult for our children to open up books today and see a reflection of themselves, but this was hard to find when my children were young.

If you are purchasing gifts this season, I would like to recommend to you that you use this bibliography as a tool to share our children’s experiences and let others have the experience where characters representing them are secondary in these books, for once. Let them experience a little of what it is to be a young, Black human being by reading about it from a young Black person’s perspective. Share this window into our children’s world with White children as well as Black ones, and support wonderful authors and illustrators who are people of color as well as LGBTQIA2S+.

This post is from our December, 2021, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.